Comfy Win for PL despite Hills Comeback
Six tries and a bonus point win for PL. It was ok in the end but Hillhead /Jordanhill showed some spirit as they clawed back 21 points in the second half
Preston Lodge's much improved performance last week gave rise to some hope and expectation when bottom of the table Hillhead/Jordanhill came to The Pennypit on Saturday but a home win was by no means guaranteed as the visitors had plenty to prove to try to get their own season up and running with a win.
Hills kicked off into a very strong wind that was blowing down the pitch – a factor that would become more apparent later in the game – and they managed to set up a ruck on PL's 10m line. It was all a bit scrappy though and PL's Jason Riley was able to get in and disrupt things with an interception before passing on to Alan Whittingham and he took full advantage of the weak defence to run 50 metres for the opening try. The early 5-0 lead was a real confidence booster for PL and this was reflected in their play for the next 10 minutes as firstly Jonny Sked had a good break before passing to Pete Johnstone who made 30 metres and only a forward pass prevented Jonny Brash from breaking clear to score. Johnstone and John Burns seemed to be everywhere on the pitch at this time and the Hills defence really had no answer to their industry at the breakdown. PL's second try came when they helped set up Dave Lyall with good ball in the 22 and the big prop crashed over for a great try. Robbie Griffin converted and PL wer 12-0 up after 17 minutes.
The Hillhead/Jordanhill scrum was packed with big boys, especially in the front row but PL were holding their own and PL's Baikie, Johnson and Lyall were more than a match for their counterparts at the setpiece. The lineout also had some stability with Blair Cowan and Alan Whittingham in control and providing good ball for scrum half Burns.
The third try came after a great deal of patience in the Hills' 22 but it was Robbie Griffin who took control of the situation with a fast break through the midfield defence and he was through to score near the posts. He was also on target with the conversion and PL were already looking good for the win with the score 19-0 after half an hour.
Things would get even better because two more tries would follow in quick succession to seemingly wrap things up before the break. The first came from a lineout which Whittingham took before the pack drove him towards the line and when the ball was recycled, Burns had a go but was stopped illegally by the Hills defence. This resulted in a yellow card which made things easier for PL because when Burns tapped the penalty and passed to Lyall, the Hills' defence had no way of stopping him going over for his second and PL's bonus point try.
Just before half time, PL extended their lead to 31-0 with a converted try which was set up with a great kick to 18m by Robbie Griffin. Hills rescued the ball from the linout but Jason Riley stole it from the arms of the defender. A scrum followed and the PL pack were totally dominant to secure the ball and set up a move across the pitch which involved Riley, Brash and Antoin Penrose before Griffin passed to Jonny Sked and he cruised home for the try which Griffin converted to make the half time score 31-0.
If the match was all over bar the shouting, nobody had bothered to tell the visitors because they now had the stiff breeze behind them and they put this to good use almost immediately with a long clearance which got the ball into the PL 22, probably for the first time in the match.
The next 10 minutes was a mixture of great PL defence and sustained pressure by the visitors. Dale Gordon, Paul Glynn and Ewan Runciman were each called upon to put in some great tackles to halt the attacks but the pressure was too much and eventually Halliday found a gap and he was through to get the first points on the board for the visitors. Harte's conversion made it 31-7 and although there still didn't seem to be too much to cause concern for PL, this soon changed because the Hills' half backs had the measure of the wind and continually put it to good use to keep the home side pinned back in their own 22. Hills definitely had the better of things and PL could do little to stem the attacks so it was only a matter of time before first Thomson and then Reilly, crossed for deserved tries. Both were converted by Harte suddenly a different game was emerging as the scoreboard now read 31-21 with 15 minutes to go.
Cool heads and precise passing were required if PL were to get back on track and overcome the onslaught as well as the elements and sure enough, with a little extra effort they were able to look after the ball better and put together one of the best moves of the game to pass the ball through several sets of hands before Glynn found winger Penrose and he was able to sprint over to finish off a great try in the corner. The conversion was missed but the score was now 36-21 and PL upped their game for the final minutes to ensure that they would hold this lead without any further scares before the finish.
Things are definitely improving as the team settle into the season and this was a good team performance, especially from the front row including Luke Reynolds on his 1st XV debut and up against some very big opposition. Head Coach Andrew Clark will be hoping that this continues next week when they travel west again, this time to Whitecraigs who are flying high in second place in the league. Kick off 3pm.
Preston Lodge Team:
J Brash, P Glynn, D Gordon, E Runciman, A Penrose, R Griffin, J Burns
C Baikie, T Johnson, D Lyall, B Cowan, J Sked, A Whittingham, P Johnstone, J Riley
L Reynolds, C Dixon, S MacColl